Chinese Cooking Experiment #1: Scallion Pancakes

Last night I delved into Chinese cooking experimentation (while Mrs. Chang’s advice is still fresh in my mind). First up – scallion pancakes!

True confession: I did not discover scallion pancakes until I went to Gourmet Dumpling House in Boston’s Chinatown last January. My boyfriend took me there on a date and ordered them for us. I sat there quite confused, imagining your typical Hungry Jack breakfast pancake with scallions. When the waiter brought the pancakes to our table, my eyes widened in surprise. With one bite you are immediately hit with fresh scallions warmed to perfection within the dough. I sometimes lose the flavor of scallions when I sauté them too much, and sometimes too many fresh scallions in a salad can make them too pungent. Scallions were just made to be put into a pancake like this (in my humble opinion). And the pancake magically has these doughy layers reminiscent of flaky biscuits, though it’s not exactly the same thing. Wondrous!

I know. It’s tragic how long I went without them.

So, if you have never had the immense pleasure of eating scallion pancakes, never fear! A recipe is here.

To remind you from my previous post, here is the picture of Mrs. Chang’s scallion pancake.

Mrs. Chang's version of scallion pancakes
Mrs. Chang’s Scallion Pancakes

Scallion Pancakes

  • 1 “loaf” of frozen bread dough
  • 1 bunch of scallions, washed and chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • sesame oil
  • black or white sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 large pan with a cover (for cooking)

1. Thaw frozen bread dough according to the package’s instructions.

2. Cut the bread dough into thirds. One loaf of bread dough makes about three good sized pancakes.

3. On a wooden board or cutting board, roll out the first piece of dough until it resembles a round pancake, about one-quarter to one-half inch thick. It will help if you flour the surface on which you are rolling and flour the bread dough itself so that nothing sticks!

4. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and sesame oil (about the size of a nickel will do) on the pancake’s surface. Spread that sesame oil around so it covers the entire pancake.

5. Take your chopped scallions and sprinkle them on top as well. You can add as much or as little as you’d like. In my opinion, the more the better!

6. Now, roll up the pancake long ways as if you were making cinnamon buns. It should look like a thin log at this step.

7. Take both ends of the rolled up pancake and join them together to make a circle. The pancake is now going to look like a bagel without the large hole in the middle. The dough is going to want to separate here and be that log again, but you want it to be a pancake! With your fingers, smoosh the separated parts of the dough together so that the pancake stays round with no gaping holes.

8. If you want to add sesame seeds to the pancake, you will sprinkle them on top of the pancake at this point. Then, take your rolling pin and roll the pancake out again so that it’s about one-half inch thick.

9. Repeat the previous steps for the next two pancakes.

10. Put some olive oil (or the oil of your choice – canola, coconut, etc.) in the pan and turn the heat on high. Place the scallion pancakes in the pan.

11. Add water to the pan so that the pancakes are submerged about halfway.

12. Cover the pan and let the pancakes cook until the boiling water evaporates. Then turn down the heat to medium-low so that the pancakes have a chance to brown on both sides. Watch them carefully here! Once the pancakes are browned, they are ready to eat.

My First Attempt at Making Scallion Pancakes
My First Attempt at Making Scallion Pancakes

That’s it!

Things I Learned

1. I would turn the heat down a little bit before the water evaporates (around 1-2 minutes before, perhaps). I had a few pancakes start to brown before all the water evaporated, making some of the bottoms burn too much for my liking.

2. Adding sesame seeds to the dough adds another level of flavor that I’d like to try next time. This recipe is still tasty without them, though!

Stay tuned for my next experiment in Chinese cooking: steamed pork buns!

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Mushroom, Cipollini Onion, Asiago Cheese, and Crispy Prosciutto Quiche

After cooking the traditional dishes of Thanksgiving, what do I want to do? Experiment in the kitchen and make something new! Sometimes I make the most lasting memories in the kitchen from trying something completely different. Every time I think about that one night I attempted to make blueberry cottage cheese pancakes…oh goodness, I can’t stop laughing. What a mess in my skillet. However, failing in the kitchen is a wonderful, beautiful thing because you learn so much from making the mistake(s). You either have to eat that mess you made, or you throw it out in disgust and resort to grilled cheese for dinner (which has happened before!). I will not pretend that I am a “perfect” chef, so I will share my experiments with you, telling you what really works and what needs improvement.

I made quiche with my friend and her family recently. It came out quite well, with bacon, marinated artichoke hearts, mushrooms, onion, and gruyere cheese. I wanted to recreate it in my little studio kitchen with the ingredients I had on hand. That’s the fabulous thing about quiche – you can put practically any combination of meats and vegetables in it!

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Quiche (with mushrooms, cipollini onions, asiago cheese, and crispy prosciutto)

  • 1 frozen pie crust
  • 4 eggs (3 for inside the quiche, 1 for the egg wash on the pie crust)
  • 1 cup of milk (you can add heavy cream, but I used 1% milk and it worked perfectly)
  • 1 cup of asiago cheese, grated (you can use any kind of cheese you wish, like gruyere or cheddar)
  • 5 medium sized baby portobello mushrooms
  • 2 cipollini onions (you can use 1 small onion or a few shallots instead)
  • 4 slices of prosciutto, diced
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chopped fresh parsley to taste

1. Thaw the frozen pie crust and pre-bake according to the package’s instructions. Before you put the pie crust in the oven, crack and beat one egg in a bowl and brush some of the egg onto the crust. This will prevent the quiche crust from getting soggy. Note: I tried using Trader Joes’s frozen pie crust. The crust tasted fine, but the texture turned out far more crumbly than I expected. Pillsbury is always a safe bet, and I may use that next time. If you have the time and the recipe to make your own pie crust, by all means, use that! 

2. While the pre-baked pie crust cools, prepare the ingredients for the filling and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take a cheese grater and grate about a cup of asiago cheese. Shredding your own cheese has its perks. I heard once that packaged shredded cheese can have preservatives that allow it to stay intact and not stick to the other pieces of cheese. While that cheese still melts just fine, hand shredding your cheese will allow it to melt even better.

3. Chop your mushrooms and onion and saute in a pan with a little olive oil until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have released and soaked up their water (about 5-10 minutes). You can add seasoning here (I used salt, pepper, and garlic powder), or wait until you mix everything together.

4. Put the mushrooms and onions in a bowl to cool. Chop your prosciutto into small pieces (the size is up to you, but I cut slices about an inch long and a half inch wide). Saute the prosciutto pieces in a pan for about 2-4 minutes until the meat is fragrant and crispy. Transfer that to a bowl.

5. Next, crack three eggs into your mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of milk and beat the mixture until the eggs are fully incorporated with the milk.

6. Add the sautéed mushrooms, onions, and prosciutto. Add 1/2 cup of the asiago cheese and mix.

7. If you haven’t added any seasoning yet, do so now. I also added a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley here for some color and fresh herb flavor.

8. Pour the egg mixture into your pie pan with the pre-baked crust. Take the remaining 1/2 cup of asiago cheese and sprinkle over the top.

9. Put the quiche in the oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes (the deeper the pan, the longer it will need to cook). Insert a toothpick into the middle of the quiche to test for doneness – if it’s clean, it’s good to go. Note: I do not own a special pie pan or quiche pan, so instead I used a square pyrex pan on hand. A traditional pie or quiche pan is less deep and will only need to cook for about 20 minutes. 

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The filling came out so well! Next time I will use a different pie crust that won’t crumble so much on me. What are your favorite fillings for quiche? I can’t wait to experiment with this recipe more.